Vatican still a patriarchy but getting better, nun leaders say

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Catholic Church is dominated by men but is making progress on giving a stronger voice to women, representatives of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an umbrella group of Catholic nuns, said on Wednesday.

Pope Francis has appointed a few women in senior Vatican managerial positions, and has for the first time given them voting powers in this month’s synod, a bishops’ summit discussing church reforms.

At the same time, Francis has ruled out opening up the priesthood to women.

The Church is “by and large fully led by a male hierarchy”, and “if you ask if I have felt frustrated, yes I have felt frustrated,” Sister Mary John Kudiyiruppil, UISG Associate executive secretary, said.

“But I really think we are making progress,” the Indian-born nun added, speaking at the Foreign Press Association in Rome.

Sister Maamalifar Poreku, a missionary nun from Ghana who co-chairs a UISG panel on justice, peace and the environment, said she and other women are able to make an impact, helping the poor and the needy, even without ordination.

“I don’t think I am interested in being a priest and I am very happy with the vocation that I have … I don’t need to be at the altar to do anything,” she said, speaking at the same event.

The 61-year-old said women priests “will happen” eventually, but “the way things move, I might not see it in my lifetime.”

The closed-door synod is focusing on how the Church can be more welcoming towards women, migrants, clerical sex abuse survivors, divorcees and victims of climate change and social injustice. Conservatives have criticised the exercise.

Bishops are due to end their discussions on Saturday, but will resume them in October 2024. A papal document will follow, most likely in 2025, meaning changes in Church teaching, if any, would be a long way off.

“We live in a patriarchal world … it is men who dominate, whether we like it or not, this is reality, so in the church, it is men who dominate and change in society, a patriarchal society, is not easy,” Sister Poreku said.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini)